Everyone thought they wouldn’t win a single game. They were wrong

Allen University football team tackles adversity in inaugural season

Allen University head football coach, Ted Keaton, is rebuilding the football program after it was dissolved 13 years ago.
Up Next
Allen University head football coach, Ted Keaton, is rebuilding the football program after it was dissolved 13 years ago.

Editor’s note: We caught up with the most interesting people we wrote about in 2018. Learn what’s new with each this week.

Teddy Keaton noticed it every Sunday, the sign his restarted Allen University football program was on stable ground.

“I’d go to church,” Keaton said, “and one of the members would ask me, ‘Did you win this week?’”

Keaton, since his hiring as head coach in January, has literally rebuilt Allen. The historically black college was without football for 12 years before the Yellow Jackets, with a roster full of freshmen, returned to the field in September. They went 2-6.

“Someone asked me the other day if I thought the first year was successful,” Keaton said. “And I told them, ‘Well, it depends on how you measure success.’ I feel like we accomplished a lot as far as getting the program up and running, getting on the field. We made all the games, we played all the games. Everybody came out pretty good. We don’t have many injuries.

“We won two ballgames when people probably felt we weren’t going to win any. So I think it was very successful for a first-year run.”

So what’s next? As Keaton spoke in mid-December, he was done wrapping a day of recruiting visits. The first season allowed Keaton to evaluate what he had — and what he needs.

Experience at the quarterback, running back and wide receiver positions top his list. The 2019 Yellow Jackets are to feature the returning sophomores, but also junior college transfers.

“The guys, when they’re young, they don’t handle adversity well,” Keaton said. “Sometimes when you put too many losses in a row, it becomes a habit. And we don’t want that to become a habit of the program.”

Keaton, 42, is still proud to be leading this project.

“I think people are excited to have a football team at Allen,” Keaton said. “In the South, the football team is like the front porch of your institution. I think our program has done what it’s intended to do — it’s brought back the spirit of Allen.

“I hope it can continue to grow.”

Andrew Ramspacher has been covering college athletics since 2010, serving as The State’s USC men’s basketball beat writer since October 2017. His work has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors, Virginia Press Association and West Virginia Press Association. At a program-listed 5-foot-10, he’s always been destined to write about the game. Not play it.

Support my work with a digital subscription